10 August 2010

PBC Sod Fields

Andy, Kimmie, and I set off this past weekend for a day of shorebirds and sod fields. Palm Beach County usually has a great shorebird migration starting in August so we spent the day searching for a few migrants. We didn't hit any steller shorebird numbers but we did have quite an adventure.

We started the day off at the STA 1-E and STA 1-W parks. We found our only Prairie Warbler at STA 1-E, along with Eastern Meadowlarks and a Tree Swallow. At STA 1-W we found a couple of exotic Purple Swamphens. Also there were great numbers of Pied-billed Grebes and other waders.

We continued to Sam Senter Road where we found a nice flooded field of Pectoral Sandpipers, Short-billed & Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and Black-necked Stilts. We also found the first of many Common Nighthawk. This by far was the number one perched bird of the day.

We decided to take a break from the shorebirds and check out the Belle Glade Marina. A few years ago I had my lifer Smooth-billed Ani by the boat ramp but we were disappointed to find that the shoreline had been sprayed and all the vegetation was removed. The campground was also inaccessible due to some new fences and some signs for us to keep out. We managed to pick up a couple of new species including Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and Swallow-tailed Kite. As we drove back into town dozens of Swallow-tailed Kites started streaming through on their southward migration.

It was tough going finding more flooded fields. Maybe due to the economy (which seems likely) most of the the traditional sod fields are now being planted with sugarcane. However we did come up with a few more fields before the day was over. A field on US 27 near the radio tower produced a good bird for Andy's Big Year, a Black Tern. We also saw many more Black-necked Stilts and waders.

We backtracked to Brown Farms Road where we found a canal that was littered with hundreds and hundreds of birds. The most common in the mix was the Wood Stork. It's hard to imagine that this is an endangered species when you see them line up on a canal as far as the binoculars can see. In the flooded field to the east of the canal we had a few shorebirds including our first of the day Black-bellied Plover. Crusing the canal were not only Gull-billed Tern and Royal Terns but also a big Caspian Tern.

We decided to head back home but made one more spot at a flooded field near 20-mile Bend on 880. This field had the usual Pectoral Sandpipers and dowitchers but also contained our only Ruddy Turnstone of the day, in nice breeding colors to boot. Dark clouds loomed in our direction so we ended the day pretty happy with our total of 72 birds, including non-ABA birds. Not bad for a stretch of birding that lasted from 9am to 3pm. I'll be back at the sod fields again before migration is over, that's for sure!

Species seen: Eurasian Collared-Dove, European Starling, Osprey, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Laughing Gull, Purple Swamphen, Little Blue Heron, Long-billed Dowitcher, Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Mourning Dove, Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Mockingbird, Green Heron, Great Egret, Royal Tern, Eastern Meadowlark, Gull-billed Tern, Pied-billed Grebe, Snowy Egret, Common Nighthawk, Black-crowned Night Heron, Pectoral Sandpiper, White-winged Dove, Fish Crow, Muscovy-Feral, Anhinga, Turkey Vulture, Barn Swallow, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Ruddy Turnstone, Gray Kingbird, Chimney Swift, House Sparrow, Purple Martin, Cliff Swallow, Glossy Ibis, Tri-colored Heron, Cattle Egret Prairie Warbler, Killdeer, Red-winged Blackbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Common Moorhen, Rock Pigeon, Mottled Duck, Wood Stork, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Swallow-tailed Kite, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Black Vulture, Black Tern, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Northern Cardinal, Black-bellied Plover, Caspian Tern, Common Ground-dove, Double-crested Cormorant, Limpkin, and Common Myna.

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